Politics & Art: Rumble House July 22, 2015

Today, in Calgary, we experienced extreme weather.  I know that we react excessively to changing weather, but today I feel compelled to describe that I, in fact, for the first time in my sixty years, saw a funnel cloud and watched it, ominous, in the western sky and that I did feel that what I was seeing was apocalyptic in nature.  To know that there is such power in weather is a revelation when it is your own experience and not a feature on a news story elsewhere.  I watched golf ball sized hail drop on my yard, bashing trees and creating a sound I have never heard.  It was a day of amazing moments.

A beautiful friend offered to drive me down to Rumble House this evening and to pick me up again, at the end of the auction.  I have been more than a little disappointed that during my healing, I have not been able to drive anywhere. This offer was so generous and I am more than grateful that she would do this for me.  I feel well-loved. Thank you, Kirsten.

There were a lot of reasons why I wanted to incorporate the poem, Of Politics & Art into my piece tonight.  For one, I have been recently sorting through some new and residual material on my grief journey…the incomprehensible loss of my mother.  Everything about this particular poem resonates for me….the teacher, the reading of Melville’s Moby Dick, the description of the community of whales, likely bubble feeding, the females and their young…loss…storms…the passage of time and the passage of life.

by Norman Dubie

Here, on the farthest point of the peninsula
The winter storm
Off the Atlantic shook the schoolhouse.
Mrs. Whitimore, dying
Of tuberculosis, said it would be after dark
Before the snowplow and bus would reach us.

She read to us from Melville.

How in an almost calamitous moment
Of sea hunting
Some men in an open boat suddenly found themselves
At the still and protected center
Of a great herd of whales
Where all the females floated on their sides
While their young nursed there. The cold frightened whalers
Just stared into what they allowed
Was the ecstatic lapidary pond of a nursing cow’s
One visible eyeball.
And they were at peace with themselves.

Today I listened to a woman say
That Melville might
Be taught in the next decade. Another woman asked, “And why not?”
The first responded, “Because there are
No women in his one novel.”

And Mrs. Whitimore was now reading from the Psalms.
Coughing into her handkerchief. Snow above the windows.
There was a blue light on her face, breasts and arms.
Sometimes a whole civilization can be dying
Peacefully in one young woman, in a small heated room
With thirty children
Rapt, confident and listening to the pure
God rendering voice of a storm.

A wonderful reflection on the poem may be found here.  The writer states that he/she has not read Moby Dick by Herman Melville.  I have.  The description of whales and their behaviours are very detailed and elegant, if not sometimes, extremely so, and one can not help but ‘know’ whales at the conclusion of the book.

When I set about on tonight’s piece, I began by writing the poem into a circular format, with thoughts of air and breath…life.  I included a small piece of Chopin music…music…life…the whale song.  “The blue…blue light on her face, breasts and arms.”

I depicted a family of whales…thinking in terms of personification and the self.

A very personal painting, purchased by a visitor who had stopped and shared a brief conversation with me about music…thank you, Lois of Choiceland, Saskatchewan.

It was a beautiful and funny night.  I loved the conversation on our drive.  I enjoyed the many conversations on site, the colour, laughter, layers of music, the grapes and the olive crackers, the stage, the jokes and always, the friendship.  I will sleep well tonight.

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